Gaza: Hamas Declares War

Last Tuesday I was privileged—or voluntarily burdened, by invitation of the Israel Consul—with the chance to view one of the restricted IDF videos documenting the atrocities of October 7th. This is a compilation of video recordings from bodycams, phone, and dashboard cameras belonging to attackers, victims, and rescuers as well as CCTV from the locations attacked.

As hard as this was to watch, it did not go as far as I expected based on reports by people who saw even worse video, surviving witnesses, and the unfortunately limited postmortem evidence. I will return to some of those. But first I want to describe this video. If you are squeamish, read no further than the next paragraph; even if you are not, you will probably be disturbed.

This is the paragraph anyone can read. What made the greatest impression on me in the video was the joy on the faces of the Hamas attackers as and after they did their atrocities. Because of the way the human brain is wired, the difference between video and verbal description is not as great for atrocities as it is for facial expressions. I had heard many descriptions of atrocities, and seeing them was important, but those facial expressions are seared into my mind—when these young men turned back toward their colleagues’ phones with faces bursting with smiles. Nothing diabolical here. The smiles were big, warm, and bright, conveying the  most spontaneous joy—pride, satisfaction, and triumph, yes—but most vividly, joy.

The video is chronological, beginning with victims becoming aware of the attack, moving to examples of what is done to them and how they react, to some of the dead being mutilated by Hamas, and ending with large numbers of the dead as they were found by rescuers. Here are a few examples.

Continue reading

Concerning the War in Gaza

After focusing on the Gaza war since 7:30 am on October 7th, I’ve finally decided to begin writing about it. People ask for my opinion and I will now refer them here. If you read on, that is what you will get. I will not keep saying, “In my opinion” again and again, so please assume it. Today I will give my overview, which may be followed by other, future entries.

*****

Israel is at war with the empire of Iran, which includes the failed state of Lebanon, the territory of Gaza, and the faltering state of Yemen. Iran rules these entities through the terror groups Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis respectively. Like Iran, they are sworn to eliminate Israel. Through these and other proxies, Iran also controls parts of Syria and Iraq and has significantly infiltrated the West Bank. Since Iran is not an Arab country, this is larger than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The question of whether Iran gives directives to these proxies on a day to day basis is irrelevant. It nurtures, trains, arms, consults, and plans with them and has done so for many years. They don’t do anything without Iran’s approval before and after the fact. Meanwhile Iran progresses steadily toward a nuclear arsenal (which Israel already has).

Gazan civilians, including children and women, have paid a very high price for Iran’s imperial ambitions, inflicted on them mostly by Israel’s defense forces (the IDF). Every death is one too many, but all of these deaths are in the military category called collateral damage, which tragically occurs in every war. Whether the collateral damage in this war has been excessive will be discussed for a long time, but a growing consensus says it has. Fortunately the number of civilian casualties has declined markedly in the past few weeks as Israel has shifted its tactics from conventional war to targeted raids. Whether before or after this shift, Israel—unlike the Iranian proxies it is fighting—does not target civilians. A fortiori, despite stupid and dangerous comments by its leaders, it is not guilty of genocide.

Overwhelming evidence has shown that Gazan hospitals, schools, mosques, and homes, among other civilian institutions, were or are also Hamas fortresses and weapons depots (above and below ground), and that this was accomplished with the tolerance and often the collaboration of the people leading these institutions, including UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) personnel. Accordingly Israel could not defeat its enemy without taking over these institutions. This was done with much effort to protect civilians, including advance warnings, urging evacuation, and other means. It is estimated that 23,000 Gazans have been killed and 65,000 residential buildings have been destroyed or made uninhabitable. These two numbers strongly suggest that most of the buildings were empty.

On October 7th—both the Sabbath and an important Jewish holy day—the Gazan Iranian proxy Hamas conducted the most brilliant and the most vicious attack on Israel in its history. Call it a huge infiltration or a small invasion, it was astonishingly successful. Over 1200 civilians were killed and hundreds more kidnapped, not from the air as collateral damage but deliberately and face-to-face. Each was a premeditated murder. (To get the number of Americans required for proportionate effect, multiply by 35.) The numerous atrocities included but were not limited to: burning alive, beheading, dismemberment of babies, cutting off feet and breasts of children and women before killing them, and shooting in the vagina as part of rape. Each happened multiple times, many documented on video by the terrorists themselves and confirmed by major news organizations.

As colossal as Hamas’s success on that day was Israel’s failure. All experts are baffled by it, but it is known to have had a sexist component, since the soldiers assigned to monitor Hamas and who thoroughly warned their superiors to no avail, were women. Israelis are almost as enraged at their leadership as at Hamas, and when the war is over we will see the consequences.

This war will only be successful—that is, a true victory for Israel— if it results in: 1) a new government in Israel almost immediately; 2) an effective Palestinian government in Gaza within months, not years; 3) a reconfiguration of the Middle East, including Israel, which Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are ready for, provided that 4) there is real progress toward a two-state reality, which should be achieved in years, not decades. Absent these four changes, there will be permanent war with Iran, whether directly or through its proxies, and in time there will be no Israel.